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Stories from the Stores – Sussex After the Bomb

Kelly van Doorn, Heritage Collections Officer

Today marks the 62nd anniversary of the unveiling of the Peace Symbol. Originally used in protests against nuclear armament, it is now recognised globally as a symbol of world peace. With the Doomsday Clock teetering on the edge of Midnight’s global catastrophe, nuclear weapons and the threat they pose are under ever-increasing scrutiny.

This fear has been present long before our current century and an object in our collection reflects that. A book published by Professions for Peace, Sussex in 1984 explores the effects and aftermath of a nuclear attack in Sussex. Sussex After the Bomb, has a picture of James and Hilda Bloggs from When the Wind Blows– an animated disaster film set in Sussex which follows the Bloggs’ life after a nuclear attack (Spoiler alert- it’s not very jolly!).

Sussex After the Bomb uses the East Sussex County Council’s War Emergency Plan to consider how an attack on nuclear power stations or direct bomb-drops in Sussex would impact people, infrastructure and ecosystems locally and nationally. It carefully considers the long-term irreversible harm that nuclear weapons would cause to the planet; blocking sunlight, eroding the protective ozone layer and irradiated vegetation.  There is nothing optimistic about the book as it essentially refutes all statements made by Government departments about preparations and plans of action.  However, at the end, the book asks “What can YOU do?”… having read it, I thought “not a lot” but the message they wanted to get across is: the best thing any individual can do is let your voice be heard and connect with ordinary people in other countries who are just as worried about our leaders as we are theirs.  Connectivity and communication, not xenophobia and distrust, will be the catalyst to nuclear disarmament.

As I sit at my desk writing a blog post about an unassuming-looking book in a box in our stores, I’m reminded of Albert Einstein allegedly coining the phrase, “I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones”. It is terrifying to think that this quote is truer today than it was when it was uttered.

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